Using stable isotopes to assess population connectivity in the declining European Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur)
Cecere, Jacopo G.
Voigt, Christian C.
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European Turtle Doves (Streptopelia turtur) are long-distance migrants and have experienced a population decline of more than 78% since 1980. Their conservation depends on refined knowledge of breeding origins and population connectivity. Feathers collected at stopover sites, but molted at breeding grounds, provide an opportunity to assign birds to potential regions of origin using tissue stable hydrogen isotope values and relate those to a European feather hydrogen isoscape. Here, 101 feather samples from 13 different breeding countries were analyzed to calibrate the European hydrogen isoscape and 101 feather samples from Spanish, Italian, Maltese, Greek, and Bulgarian stopovers were assigned to potential regions of origin. The assigned range of origin for all 101 individuals grouped together agreed with known distribution patterns. Bulgarian samples were mostly assigned to Russian areas. Possible origins of Greek, Italian, Maltese, and Spanish samples ranged from central to southern Europe. Individual assignments highlighted four broad regions of origin, corresponding to a cool/humid to hot/dry temperature gradient. Proportions of birds assigned to these regions varied among birds sampled at different stopover sites. Therefore, our results provide important information about population connectivity and may be useful to evaluate possible influences of hunting on Turtle Dove populations.